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August 31, 2023

Westminster United Church Update

Structural problems in the roof of Westminster United Church at 745 Westminster Avenue caused the 1912 building to be temporarily closed at the end of November 2022. As of now, the church has been able to continue functioning while the sanctuary is closed, with services being held in the lecture hall. Unfortunately, the lecture hall is quite limited and so big services, like Christmas and Easter, cannot be hosted there. Additionally, the glorious 1912 Casavant Frères organ has been sitting silently in the sanctuary for many months now, unable to share its beautiful music with the community.

The closure of Westminster United Church’s sanctuary has made it more challenging for the church to reach out to the community, and in turn the community has not been able to benefit from using the wonderful space. The church firmly believes that heritage buildings should be vibrant and bustling spaces, serving the community to their fullest capacity. Right now, Westminster is not able to achieve this goal and both the church and the community suffering as a consequence.

The church has been actively seeking solutions to repair the sanctuary since it was closed. It applied as a “Large Capital Project” to the 2023 intake for the provincial Arts, Culture and Sport in Community Fund. Launched in 2022-2023, the fund committed up to $100 million in funding to support to three different categories of projects. The “Large Capital Projects” category is for requests over $300,000 and up to $5 million, with the intent to “improve the quality, accessibility and availability of facilities and spaces needed for Manitobans to engage with the arts, culture and amateur sport in their community.” Westminster was disheartened to learn that despite being a historic landmark building and an important community hub in grave need of support, their request for funding was denied.

While the church continues to look for funding to do this important conservation work on the sanctuary, regular repairs and maintenance have continued on the rest of the building. The main chimney of Westminster United Church is being repointed from top to bottom in September. The sanctuary is also being maintained as much as possible, with proper heating and ventilation to ensure it is not further damaged by the changing seasons. It is an outstanding example of good stewardship of our built heritage! The church’s past conservation efforts have even won a conservation award at our 2020 Annual Preservation Awards, while congregation member Brandon Johnston won the youth awards for his outstanding leadership at Westminster in protecting, conserving and sharing Winnipeg’s built heritage.

Thank you to Brandon Johnston for the updates – we have faith that solutions will be found and Westminster United Church will persevere!

Westminster United Church in 1995 by Robert Sweeney.

Featured image: “Westminster Church Winnipeg Opened June, 1912” from Public Historical Postcards, Winnipeg Public Library – Pastforward.

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